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Bushfire Poetry Comp winners impress judge Jackie French

Kamahl Cogdon, April 26, 2021 6:30PM Kids News

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Lincoln Alderman, of Coolagolite near Cobargo in NSW, won the Kids News Bushfire Poetry Competition in the primary school category. His poem, Sunrise on a Hill, will be part of a book commemorating the Black Summer bushfires. media_cameraLincoln Alderman, of Coolagolite near Cobargo in NSW, won the Kids News Bushfire Poetry Competition in the primary school category. His poem, Sunrise on a Hill, will be part of a book commemorating the Black Summer bushfires.


Reading level: green

Young writers have used the power of simple words and real experiences to win over renowned* author and Kids News Poetry Competition judge Jackie French.

Announcing the winners and runners-up of the poetry competition, Ms French said she was moved by the entries with the “greatest authenticity* and insight*” into the Black Summer fires that devastated much of Australia in the summer of 2019-2020.


First prize – primary school
Sunrise on a Hill by Lincoln Alderman
Judge’s comment: “A poet’s job is to see the world beyond the cliche*. This simple but deeply moving poem is written not just with beauty and clarity but the searing insight of a poetic observer, who has found new words to describe an old terror. A wonderful work.”

Runner-up – primary school
I Will Never Forget by James Fielding
Judge’s comment: “A vivid, simple poem that takes the fire experience and turns it into a story that shows those who only know bushfire from images on TV what it is like to be a child survivor.”

First prize – secondary school
Unearthly by Manu Sage
Judge’s comment: “This was the simplest of all poems, and so the most poignant*. Rich images can make us see fire in new ways, but simple words can often be the most powerful way to share an ‘unearthly’ experience.”

Runner-up – secondary school
Losses by Ignatius Hassett
Judge’s comment: “The immediacy* and insight of this poem are beautiful, as is the universality* of its theme.”

These students’ poems will feature in a book commemorating the Black Summer bushfires.

The book, called Fighting Spirit, is a joint project between HarperCollins, News Corp Australia and the National Bushfire Recovery Agency. It will be distributed to schools and libraries in bushfire-affected regions, as well as sold in bookstores throughout Australia.

Primary school winner Lincoln, 12, of Coolagolite near Cobargo in NSW, said he was thrilled his poem would be published.

“I can’t believe it that something I wrote would be published in a proper book by HarperCollins,” he said.

“I feel proud of the award. I’m proud of my family, my school and my friends.

“One of the parents told me the other day that ‘I had done Cobargo proud’. That was a great feeling to have done that.”

media_cameraLincoln Alderman, 12, with his sister, Astrid, 13, and their dogs Banjo and Gus on their property at Coolagolite near Cobargo in NSW.

Lincoln, who is in grade 6 at Cobargo Primary School, said he entered the poetry competition after his teachers encouraged students to put their feelings about the fire down in writing.

His poem recalls the frightening night his family had to flee the flames.

“We were camping that night down the paddock and had lots of family and friends staying over,” he explained.

“There were holes in our tents from the embers and it was hot. My sister Astrid and cousin Tahlia got out of their tent and said, ‘wow check out this sunrise.’

“I will never forget that image of the fire coming over the hill towards our property. It looked alive, like an enormous herd of red, orange-coloured cattle on the move coming over the hillside.

“When we evacuated, I looked out the back window of the car and saw a huge fire and I felt worried. Then my Dad said ‘don’t worry, if we stick together, we will be OK’.”

media_cameraJames Fielding, 11, was the runner-up in the primary school category for his poem, I Will Never Forget.

Primary school runner-up James, 11, also wrote about his own experiences and the fear he felt when the fire came close to his home at Nowra South, on the NSW south coast.

“I am really thankful that I had the opportunity to write a poem about my experience of the bushfires,” the Grade 5 student said.

“Writing the poem allowed me to talk about my experience of the events of New Year’s Eve 2019, when our house was under threat.

“It allowed me to talk about the fires with my mum and put it all behind me. Thank you Kids News, HarperCollins and Jackie French.”


  • renowned: famous and respected
  • authenticity: the quality of being real or true
  • insight: accurate and deep understanding
  • cliche: a phrase or idea that is overused and not original
  • poignant: causing deep feelings, often of sadness or regret
  • immediacy: feeling of being directly involved
  • universality: being everywhere or involving everyone


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  1. What two qualities did Jackie French like most about the winning poems?
  2. What is the winning primary school poem called?
  3. What is the winning secondary school poem called?
  4. What will happening to the students’ winning poems?
  5. How did Lincoln describe the sight of the flames coming over the hill?


1. Black Summer
These children were probably able to write such moving poetry as they had personal experience with the Black Summer bushfires that affected many parts of Australia at the end of 2019 and early 2020. Use the image gallery below to write a short paragraph or free verse poem about what feelings and emotions are evoked in you or how the people that experienced these bushfires might have been feeling.

Bushfire image gallery for Kids News classroom activities. media_cameraAn image gallery from the Black Summer bushfires.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and social

2. Extension
After reading the Kids News article, what does winning this competition and having their poems published mean to these students and bushfire survivors?

Are you interested in reading this book and connecting with the words they’ve written?

How could you get a copy?

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and social, Critical and creative thinking

Proper Noun Police
A proper noun is a noun that names a particular person, place or thing. It always has a capital letter.

How many proper nouns can you find within this article? Find them all and sort them into the category of name, place, time (date/month).

Can you find any proper nouns included in your writing?

What are they?

Can you sort them into their categories?

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